Thanks to her diary, we know a great deal about Anne Frank and her life during WWII. She (with the help of her father, Otto Frank) has given the world a comprehensive first-hand account of the two years the Frank family and four others spent in hiding in a secret annex of her father’s warehouse. On April 4, 1944, the family was discovered in a raid and sent to concentration camps where all but Otto are thought to have died. In the 73 years since then, several groups of investigators have tried to piece together what happened leading up to the discovery, particularly who betrayed the family to the Gestapo. None have been successful.
Now a team of Dutch investigators, led by former FBI agent Vince Pankoke, are applying modern technology to the case to see if they can unearth any new leads. Investigations in 1948 and 1963 both came up empty when it came to who sold the family out.
‘What the idea is, is to apply modern investigative police techniques that were not available in the prior investigations,’ Pankoke told CTV, ‘The prior investigations were not very complete. We saw a lot of gaps in their methodology, a lot of witnesses weren’t interviewed. And so [the investigative team] thought, ‘hey, maybe there is a chance, when we employ these new techniques, to perhaps come up with an answer and solve the mystery of what led to the arrest.”
The team is going through millions of pages of digitized material from the national archives in Washington, Germany, Israel and the Netherlands. They are also using modern digital technology to create a 3D rendering of the original house to determine how far sound would travel. Shortly before the Frank family was found out, Anne records hearing a small knock on the wall from the outside. It is unclear if this was a friendly outsider telling the family they were being too loud or if it was a trap. They will also be using behavioural science, crowd sourcing and artificial intelligence to their advantage.
The use of artificial intelligence is particularly interesting because it will be analyzing a huge amount of data to piece together relationships and information that would take a human investigator decades to go through. Thanks, science!
So what’s the purpose of all this? Simply finding the truth.
‘This is not a prosecution, it’s a fact-finding mission,’ Pankoke said, ‘We have a motto on the team: there are no statues of limitations on the truth.’ Pankoke also says that they’ve already made progress in the investigation, even solving another cold case regarding a family nearby who was betrayed in a similar way.
Pankok is logging all the research on a website so the public can follow along (and help out) if they’re so inclined.